Until recently, the most significant thing to happen in my lifetime was 9-11. It had a profound effect on this country and its foreign policy, and it also had a profound effect on me because I went to work for a defense contractor. It also temporarily brought Americans together to fight a common enemy.
In terms of the number of people affected, 9-11 is small potatoes compared to the COVID-19 pandemic. There have been 675 million cases worldwide, with 6.76 million deaths. In the United States, there have been 104 million cases with 1.1 million deaths. Roughly 1 out of every 300 Americans has been killed by COVID-19. However, when it comes to fighting the disease, this common enemy did not bring us together but made us more divided.
Perhaps the most important thing in the world right now is that we don't get into a nuclear war with Russia or China or any other potential adversary. Since this is not likely to happen, I'm not too worried about it.
So the second most important thing in the world is how we handle the COVID-19 pandemic both personally and in terms of public policy. The actions we take could save or cost lives.
Most people today see the pandemic in the rearview mirror. The public seems very lax. People stopped wearing masks. President Biden has declared May 11th the end of the COVID emergency. However, I think that it could be naive to think that COVID is over. We currently have around 500 deaths per day. New mutations keep popping up and some of these might not be so bad, but there is always the potential for a new deadly strain to arise. The XBB 1.5 variant is so infectious there is a possibility that everyone will get it, and it has killed 1,600 New Yorkers since December 1st.
I suspect that we will be fighting COVID for the rest of our lives.
Almost nobody has time to read scientific literature. This is one reason we pay politicians to make policy so that we don't have to sort through all the details ourselves. And most people are fine with that. However, only 68% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, with around 21% having never been vaccinated.
I am personally angry with the anti-vax crowd because they seem to only think about themselves. There are some very small risks associated with the vaccines, so many people assume that if they are young and healthy that they are better off not getting vaccinated. These assumptions may not be correct, since many young healthy people also have died from COVID-19. However, the reason for my consternation is that the anti-vax crowd seems to not care at all about people like my elderly mother whose health issues would make her extremely vulnerable to COVID. If a person chooses not to be vaccinated, then they are choosing to likely spread COVID to someone else, because the R factor of the Omicron variant is 3.4. In the past, anything with an R factor of 1 or higher was considered serious.
I like to say that the anti-vax crowd cherry-picks their data, but that is being generous. For the most part, they don't look at data. They see statements on social media, Youtube, and fringe conspiracy-theory websites made by very questionable people, and they believe in some of the most absurd positions as if they were gospel. I have spent 2 years fighting vaccine misinformation on the Internet, but I give up because apparently, you can't reason with irrational people.
I see claims every day that I know have been debunked by at least one scientific study. The most recent one is that the mRNA vaccines don't stop the spread of the disease. There are studies that say otherwise.
Some commentators who I would normally respect think that the government has been lying to us this whole time. They are calling for the prosecution of government officials for their "COVID lies".
What the data currently shows is that there is much lower overall mortality for people who have been vaccinated. There is a small health risk with the vaccines, but COVID-19 is no ordinary disease. It attacks every organ in the body. The health complications from COVID are far more dangerous than the vaccines.